Harris Poll: '.. and so began the reign of Starbucks, QSR'

May 17, 2017

Despite restaurant traffic data showing a decline in April QSR traffic, Harris Poll released data today saying that millennials prefer quick-service restaurants over all other restaurant segments. 

The 29th annual EquiTrend Study found some pretty interesting information about restaurant visit habits among the current multi-generational crowd of consumers in today's national restaurant marketplace. In fact, aside from a fondness for quick-service and coffee brands, millennials also showed stronger brand equity in casual dining concepts and chicken restaurants, according to the poll, which measures brand health over time. 

The poll also surveyed Baby Boomers and found that they aren't high when it comes to brand equity on pizza and fast casual Mexican chains. In fact, the modern-day generation "gap" may be widest when multi-generational families and friends try to pick a restaurant together, as displayed in graphic detail in the chart below provided by the Harris Poll. 

"While the millennial dollar is powerful and attractive — and many are clearly enjoying their rising disposable income —  baby boomers already have the cash to spend on meals out and need to be courted...."  Harris Poll Vice President of Brand Solutions Joan Sinopoli said in a news release. "The baby boomer versus millennial gap among pizza chains and Mexican restaurants may reflect boomers' needs to eat healthier and the fact that they no longer have kid palates to please - and that signals opportunity for restaurants on the healthier end of the chain continuum to target them in their messaging and menu offerings. ...

"Restaurants continue to adapt to the millennial lifestyle, and advancements in ordering methods such as Starbucks' mobile app and Chick-fil-A's 'Mom Valet' are likely influencing millennials' higher brand equity scores," said Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at The Harris Poll. 

Brands of the year include Starbucks, Five Guys and Papa John's
The Harris poll surveys some 100,000 consumers on brand familiarity, quality and purchase consideration of 90 concepts. The result of those three measurements is the brand's so-called "brand equity." Brands of the Year score highest in each foodservice category from pizza to coffee. 

This year's list was the debut brand of the year award for Starbucks, which won the top honors for both coffee and QSR categories. For top pizza chain in brand equity, Papa John's took home top honors, while Chick-fil-A held the top spot for the infinitely popular chicken concept category. 

Starbucks' win is a particular coup, since it is the first time the brand has finished higher than three-time winner, Dunkin' Donuts. Indeed, the survey found that at least among those coveted millennials, daily visits to the brand are part of the patchwork of life for 11 percent of millennials and 10 percent of Gen X consumers.  

Top honors in the burger restaurant category this year go to Five Guys, which ousted two-time winner, In-N-Out Burger. Coming in right behind Five Guys in burger restaurant brand equity are:
2. In-N-Out Burger
3. Shake Shack
4. Wendy's
5 Culver's
6. Whataburger
7. McDonalds (also took home top honors for brand familiarity) 
8. Sonic 
9. Smashburger
10 Steak 'n Shake. 

In the always hotly contested pizza category, Louisville-based Papa John's took the pie for the first time since 2012, showing a significant boost in quality and purchase consideration, pushing it above Pizza Hut for the first time in four years. 

Other top pizza brands include fast-growing and first-timer for the study, Blaze Pizza, followed by former winner, Pizza Hut, with Marco's fills out the top four spots in the pizza pie game. 

Tops in Mexican, chicken, fro-yo and sandwiches
In the hot and always spicy Mexican food segment, Moe's Southwest Grill grabbed brand of the year for a second consecutive time, followed by Baja Fresh Mexican Grill and Taco Bell. Much-beleaguered Chipotle — which led the category from 2013-2015 — now ranks below the category average, but this year gained almost 5 points over last year's rating.

Chick-fil-A reigned supreme over all that is chicken on the restaurant landscape, while, Subway took tops in sandwiches for the seventh straight year. And for dessert, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Shop debuted as the winner in the ice cream and fro-yo category. 

Photo: iStock


Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Coffee/Bakery/Donut, Trends / Statistics


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